Another company, Sysnet America of Prince George's County, was surprised to be rejected in March 2004 because of a problem with the solicitation in the city's bid. Harold Whitt, Sysnet's president, said his company works with federal agencies and that the Baltimore council job was its first attempt to win local government work.
Whitt said he was aware of Dixon's relationship with Clark. "We caught wind of the fact that there is some sort of invisible criteria with the council," Whitt said.
He said the city never responded to his requests to find out why his firm was rejected. "It's kind of scary," Whitt said. "We are waiting to see if the playing field does become level again."
Later that year, Early Morning Software's president encountered her own frustration, which spilled over into public view a year before her company eventually won the contract.
At the July 2004 Board of Estimates meeting, Stevenson protested the decision to reject all bids for what was the fourth time.
When Stevenson began to explain her protest, Dixon refused to let her present her case.
"That was rejected, it is going back out for bid," Dixon said, according to transcripts.
"Why are we not going to find out what the basis of that rejection was?" Stevenson asked.
"The board took the recommendation of purchasing to reject it and put it back out to bid," Dixon said.
"Under what basis?" Stevenson asked.
Dixon did not answer, and the board carried on with another contract. Toward the meeting's end, Stevenson asked to be heard again.
"Madam President," Stevenson said. "I wanted it on record to understand, because there have always been issues with this particular contract."
According to transcripts, Dixon cut her off, referred her to finance director Gallagher and ended the meeting.